U.S. whistle-blower Edward J. Snowden has applied for asylum in Ireland according to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

The website claims Ireland is one of 19 countries Snowden has asked to take him in and protect him from US justice officials.

The fugitive former US security contractor is wanted in America for leaking information on a massive spying programme.

He has been holed up in Moscow for the last eight days after flying to Russia from Hong Kong.

The Irish Times reports that Irish legislation says that an asylum application can only be accepted from a person who has landed in or is within the State.

The story emanated after WikiLeaks released a statement attributed to Snowden which denounced president Barack Obama for revoking his passport, opposing his asylum requests and leaving him a ‘stateless person’.

The statement also accused the President and the US government of seeking to intimidate him and deceive the world because of his disclosures about the vast global surveillance efforts of US intelligence agencies.

It cited President Obama’s declaration last week that he would not permit any diplomatic ‘wheeling and dealing’ with other countries that might wish to grant him asylum.

The statement added: “Nonetheless vice president Joe Biden has been pressuring the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.”

The paper says Biden telephoned president Rafael Correa of Ecuador last week and asked him not to grant Snowden asylum.

Snowden’s statement added: “The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon.

“Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

“I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest. No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world.

“If any of those days ahead realize a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank.”

A later post on the WikiLeaks website said its legal adviser Sarah Harrison ‘submitted’ by hand a number of requests for asylum and asylum assistance on behalf” of Snowden to 19 countries.

The countries were listed as Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.